Tips for Greening Your Work Space
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Since office buildings can consume almost as much energy as residential buildings, it's important for workers to make more environmentally conscious choices while on the job. Here are 12 easy-to-implement tips to help you green your work space:
- Green Your Air. Plants do more than just pretty up a work space – they can also absorb indoor air pollution, increase the flow of oxygen and help prevent "Sick Building Syndrome." Encourage the use of sustainable furniture and carpeting in your work environment to help keep indoor air cleaner as well.
- Use Green Cleaning Supplies. When cleaning your desk, choose products that are certified for "green cleaning." These products will still be hard on germs but easier on the environment.
- Drink Smart. If you're a coffee drinker, look for coffee that is organic, shade grown and fair traded. Cut down on waste by using reusable filters, unplugging the pot when not in use, and bringing reusable mugs and glasses to work.
- Bring Your Lunch. Bringing lunch to work in reusable containers is more sustainable for the environment and your wallet. If your workplace has a cafeteria, encourage the use of washable trays, serving dishes and utensils rather than disposable versions. If you order out, ask the vendor to package your food in recyclable containers and forgo the plastic utensils and plates unless they are BPI Certified to fully degrade in a composting facility. Consider walking to the location to pick up your order rather than having it delivered.
- Don't Be a Paper Pusher. The Sierra Club estimates the average U.S. office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year. Instead of printing out copies of documents for meetings, save those documents on a shared drive and pull them up for everyone to view collectively.
- Reduce Over Reuse. While recycling office paper is good, reducing the amount of paper used altogether is even better as it cuts down on the amount of material that needs to be collected, transported and processed. If you're not ready to ditch the printouts completely, use recycled paper. Recycled paper uses 55 percent less water and 60-70 percent less energy to produce than paper from virgin pulp.
- Revamp Your To-Do List. If you prefer to write out daily lists and cross items off as completed, make this process more sustainable by keeping your to-do list on a smartphone, computer or dry erase board.
- Adjust Your Print Settings. Color printing generally uses more ink, so print in black and white or draft mode when you can to conserve ink. Reducing margin and font settings to fit more text on a single page will help save paper as well. Change your default print settings to duplex or double-sided as well.
- Use Paperclips Instead of Staples. Paper clips are sustainable by design as they can be reused multiple times. Many today are produced from recycled materials or materials that are readily recyclable.
- Forget the Screen Saver. Since screen savers use energy when you are away from your desk, change your screen settings to "hibernate" or "sleep" when you will be away for more than 10 minutes.
- Avoid Hidden Power Usage. Many devices have "standby" settings that draw power – sometimes as much as 15 or 20 watts – even when they're turned off. To make sure that computers and other office equipment are completely off, pull the plug or use a power strip with an on/off switch (or a smart power strip) so the whole desktop setup can be turned off at once.
- Turn Out the Lights. When you leave your office for meetings, shut off all lights, including task lighting or overhead lights to reduce energy consumption.
Making small changes to your everyday routine can quickly add up in a big way. For more tips on living greener, visit the NSF sustainability website.